German fashion house Hugo Boss – which boasts a glamorous womenswear division headed up by fashion designer Jason Wu – announced in October that it is planning to abandon the luxury market and return to its roots of selling premium men’s clothing, according to its chief executive. “The effort to make in-roads in the luxury market didn’t prove to be particularly helpful for our business,” Mark Langer told German publication, Handelsblatt, last month in his first interview since taking over the chief executive role at the 92-year old label.
Upon joining Hugo Boss in 2008, former CEO Claus-Dietrich Lahrs – who has since left for Kering-owned Bottega Veneta – began to position the German label as more upmarket as the luxury sector boomed. He oversaw the opening of more than 400 stores worldwide and placed a more significant focus on womenswear, appointing Wu as the director of womenswear in 2013. But the luxury market is now going through its most severe slowdown in seven years, and Hugo Boss’s sales growth is consistently taking significant hits, as are its internal rankings. Lahrs’ departure, which was announced in September, was followed by the resignation of Christoph Auhagen, the brand’s Chief Brand Officer.
Following such changes, we asked this spring whether Wu – who catapulted to household fame after designing Michelle Obama’s dresses for the first and second inaugurations of President Obama – would be the next to go. With such financial turmoil, including consistent disappointments in terms of revenue reports, and the recent bout of upper-level changes, it is certainly worthwhile to inquire as to the status of creative director Jason Wu’s role at the brand. After getting a markedly strong start in June 2013, Wu has had a difficult time inducing sales in the United States and China in recent quarters.
While our speculation was put on hold for some time with Hugo Boss reportedly seeking additional support from Wu under Lahrs’s tenure, with the new direction slated to come into effect under Langer’s watch, it is difficult not to wonder … again: Is Wu going to be the next one to jump ship?
Hugo Boss released a statement in late October saying: “We can confirm that we will focus more closely on our menswear collections. Hugo Boss will, however, be continuing its collaboration with artistic director Jason Wu who remains extremely important to us. Therefore womenswear will remain a key component of our medium-term growth strategy.”
Yet, just this week, Langer re-emphasized that the brand will be “returning to its roots selling premium men’s clothing,” so much so that it will only present its menswear collection at the New York fashion week next year and has, therefore, cancelled its regularly scheduled womenswear show. Seems mildly suspicious, no?